Democrat/Teacher Split

New York Governor Cuomo recently lambasted the Teachers’ Unions. This is a bit shocking, since he’s a died-in-the-wool Democrat, and not the only one.

Cuomo said he openly disagreed with a teacher union member who said he represents the students.

“No, you don’t,” Cuomo said he told the person. “You represent the teachers. Teacher salaries, teacher pensions, teacher tenure, teacher vacation rights. I respect that. But don’t say you represent the students.”

One wonders why it took so long for politicians to state so obvious a truth. The unions are paid by their members, not by the students. The more powerful the unions become, the more insulated from concerns about parents and students, the more they advocate for the interests of teachers. This should not be considered controversial at all. It is human nature.

Gov. Cuomo also remarked: “This was never a teacher employment program and this was never an industry to hire superintendents and teachers.”

“This was a program to educate kids.” …

Sorry, Cuomo, but a bit of Public Choice Economics and a bit of history will tell you otherwise. Making education mandatory – which began in the 1840s or so – was not about the kids. It was about making sure that there were jobs for teachers, and that the kids were fed the mandatory agenda – pro Protestant, anti-Papacy, and all sorts of other “civic virtues.” The kids were not paying customers, but subjects to be molded to the purposes of others. This is explicit in the writings of many of the reformers who promoted these changes.

What happened, that Cuomo and other prominent Democrats are now taking on the powerful Teachers’ unions? Two things. One, the entire edifice is now crumbling under the weight of so many conflicting political influences. Two, deeply dissatisfied parents now outnumber teachers, and are organizing to “Do Something About It.” This pressure has been building up for at least a generation, and gets more intense because a) the problems are getting worse, and b) the cost of organizing large groups of people has gone down, largely thanks to the internet.

Lastly, although many faux “libertarians” advocate “school choice,” this author remains adamantly convinced that such programs are merely an ineffective palliative for a dying institution.


9 thoughts on “Democrat/Teacher Split”

  1. I enjoyed your perspective. I never thought I’d see the day when a Democrat and a teacher parted ways. So what do you see happening? I read your post on why schools fail and I thought it was spot on. Any suggestions?


    1. Thanks! I think my “book list” covers much of what I want to say: 100% Separation of School and State. I think the idea of coercive schooling is on its last legs, its performance limited by and driven downward by hard politico-economic factors. Psychologist Peter Gray, for example, finds that the number of children driven to suicide and/or depression has risen markedly these past 50 years. Scholastic performance has been flat not only in the United States, but in many other countries which have also heavily increased their funding of government education. School Choice has been tried in Europe, and has resulted in capture of the “private sector” by the government regulators.

      I concur with Yale Historian Bernard Bailyn: the first step is to step back and take a much broader look; education begins in the cradle, with what we might call nurturing – including the “30 million word” research of Risley and Hart. Why did it take educators so long to discover the vital importance of parental behavior? I’d say it is part of the school-centric bias of the professional educators. (Bailyn and Gatto would probably concur). While researchers focus almost entirely on what happens inside classrooms, and mostly government classrooms at that, parents around the world have been desperately trying all sorts of other things, often considered “supplemental”, which might actually be doing the heavy lifting: tutors, cram schools, helping kids with homework, and home- or un-schooling.

      In the developing world, meanwhile, parent-funded government-free schools are springing up by the thousands. (James Tooley). They are cheaper and better than the competing government schools.

      Looking back, before Horace Mann, children and parents used many, many ways to learn. Libraries; Dame Schools; special-purpose schools, the nearest modern equivalents being dance schools and martial arts dojos. All of these were mixed and matched to suit the needs of the child, not the arbitrary needs of legislatures. David Friedman – son of Milton and Rose Friedman, the economists – was very well educated by the norms of his day, and so was his wife – one in a government school, the other in a private school. They chose to unschool, and he blogged about it.

      One of the assumptions built into the conventional version of K-12 schooling, private and public, is that there is some subset of human knowledge, large enough to occupy most of twelve years of school, that everyone needs to know. That assumption is false. There is a very short list of skills–reading, writing or typing, and simple arithmetic are the only ones that occur to me–that almost everyone will find worth learning. The standard curriculum is for the most part an arbitrary list of what happens to be in fashion–the subjects everyone is required to pretend to learn.

      The government over-specifies education, and denies parents, teachers, and students the freedom to discover much better alternatives.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I like the way you put this. Certainly, something is rotten in the state of Denmark and we don’t seem close to finding an “official” solution. And the official way seems to curb the best teachers and keeps our children of color at an economic disadvantage. Wouldn’t poor families in this country be at a serious disadvantage with unschooling? They are typically lagging educationally, themselves. How do we provide equity? And thanks for your thoughtful reply.


      2. What info we have suggests that people of color benefit disproportionately from taking control of their own education. Also, parent-funded education is working very well among people of color in Africa, Latin America, and India. Hard to believe that American parents are uniquely helpless compared to 3rd world parents who have much lower incomes.

        Lastly, 30 million word research found that the quantity and quality of interaction mattered more than socioeconomic status. Click on the tag cloud for pointers.

        Thanks for your input.


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